Muswell Hill pastry chef Sarah Johnson has penned her first cook book - a celebration of the fruit grown or available in Britain.

In more than 80 recipes, the mother-of-one shares the versatility of the ingredient, and the glorious variety fruit can bring to our plates; from crisp apples to buttery pears, fragrant peaches to plump berries, fresh lemons to juicy cherries.

Fruitful boasts chapters on citrus, berries, stone fruit, pome fruits, orchard and vine fruits, and covers key techniques for cooking them such as roasting, poaching and puréeing, alongside pairing suggestions.

Hackney Gazette: Recipes also include Madeleines and macerated strawberriesRecipes also include Madeleines and macerated strawberries (Image: Patricia Niven)

Mouth watering recipes include: Rhubarb and Brown Butter Tart; Lemony Chicken Piccata; and Polenta and Blackberry Muffins alongside cordials, jams, sorbets and ice creams.

Johnson grew up in LA and trained at California's Chez Panisse and recalls: "Becoming a pastry chef kind of happened by chance, I stumbled into it at Chez Panisse and fell in love with it.

"And my formative experience was with fruit, as a young intern I remember I was surrounded by boxes of fruit and all day I had to sort out this beautiful fruit that came directly from the farm."

Another early memory was of a "huge white cake filled with strawberries" for her and her twin sister's birthday.

Hackney Gazette: Sarah Johnson grew up in L.A and came to the UK to work for Skye Gyngell at Spring restaurantSarah Johnson grew up in L.A and came to the UK to work for Skye Gyngell at Spring restaurant (Image: Kyle Books)

"I wanted to create a book where fruit was really showcased," she adds.

"It's often kept separate but I urge readers to experience fruit in a different way; take fresh peaches at the height of the season gently marinated in a light syrup and serve alongside a cake or ice cream, or instead of maybe baking blueberries into something, make a dish and serve the berries alongside.

"I hope people will use the book to go out to a farmers market like Alexandra Palace, find beautiful fresh seasonal produce, bring it back and think what am I going to do with this?

"I give them a tool box with different options and ways of serving them."

Johnson acknowledges the inspiration of three women; Alice Waters of Chez Panisse, Darina Allen at Ballymaloe in Ireland, and Skye Gyngell who brought her to the UK to work at Spring.

"They have been an incredible part of my journey to become a pastry chef."

Hackney Gazette: Fruitful is out now published by Kyle BooksFruitful is out now published by Kyle Books (Image: Kyle Books/Patricia Niven)

Working for Gyngell as head of pastry development at Spring and Heckfield Place was "a wonderful collaboration, we had such a synergy."

Currently on maternity leave, she misses working with the farmers and producers who supply the restaurants: "It's something I get tremendous joy out of, working with fruit in all seasons is very sensual the scent, the taste, the smell.

"We eat with our eyes, and if fruit is at the height of its ripeness its flavour will reveal itself. I was taught by a pastry chef to let the food tell you when it's most delicious and ready - trust your eyes."

Hackney Gazette: Ginger cake with gooseberries and lemon creamGinger cake with gooseberries and lemon cream (Image: Patricia Niven)

Ginger Cake with Gooseberries and Lemon Cream


300g (10½oz) plain flour
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon salt
120g (4¼oz) fresh peeled ginger, sliced into coins
200g (7oz) caster sugar
230ml (8fl oz) grapeseed oil
240ml (8½fl oz) boiling water
2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda, sifted
260g (9½oz) black treacle
120g (4¼oz) eggs

For the lemon cream
100g (3½oz) Lemon Curd
60ml (2fl oz) cold double cream

Sweet Gooseberry Compote to serve


Preheat the oven to 140°C/285°F/gas mark 1. Grease and line a 23cm (9in) cake tin.

Sift the flour, cinnamon, cloves and salt into a large bowl. Place the ginger and sugar into a blender and whizz into a paste. If the ginger is still chunky, drizzle in a couple spoonfuls of the oil until everything is nice and smooth, then turn off the motor.

Boil a kettle of water, and then measure 240ml (8½fl oz) into a saucepan. Bring the water back to the boil in the pan, and as the water is boiling, add the bicarbonate of soda. Swiftly remove from the heat and pour the hot water into the blender with the motor off. Add the treacle and oil, then use a wooden spoon or spatula to stir the hot water, loosening the treacle.

Blend on the lowest setting for a few seconds. Make a well in the centre of the flour, and slowly pour the wet ingredients into the dry, whisking from the centre outwards until all the flour is drawn in, then whisk in the eggs.

Pour the batter into the lined tin and level the surface. Bake for 25 minutes, turn the cake and bake for another 25 minutes. Increase the oven
temperature to 160°C/325°F/gas mark 2 and bake for a further 10–15 minutes until the centre is done – a skewer inserted into the centre should come out clean.

Cool in the tin on a wire rack. To serve, run a knife under hot water before slicing.

For the lemon cream, whisk the lemon curd to loosen it. Whip the double cream to stiff peaks, then fold in the lemon curd. Taste and add a little sugar if needed. Serve the cake with a spoonful of lemon cream and gooseberry compote.

Gooseberry Compote 


500g (1lb 2oz) freshgooseberries, topped and tailed
75–100g (2½ –3½oz) caster sugar
zest of 1 lemon
½ vanilla pod (optional)


Place the gooseberries into a heavy-based pan with just enough water to come
2–3cm (3/4–1in) up the side of the pan. Put a colander over a wide bowl and set aside somewhere within reach. Seal the pan with an airtight lid and place over a medium–high heat.

Cook for 2–3 minutes until the pan begins to steam and some of the fruit begins to break down but the majority remains whole. Remove from the heat and tip into the colander, allowing the juices to drain.

After a few minutes, put the fruit into a separate bowl and put the juices back into the pan with the sugar, lemon zest and vanilla, if using. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 10–15 minutes until the mixture thickens slightly. Return the gooseberries to the pot and give it a gentle stir, then remove from the heat. Allow it to cool to room temperature before serving. This will keep well covered in the refrigerator for 5 days.

Macerated Strawberries (serves 4)


300g (9oz) strawberries
(about 1 punnet)
½ tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon lemon or redcurrant juice


Begin by hulling the strawberries then slice them according to size and place
them in a bowl. Large strawberries should be quartered, while smaller strawberries look quite cute when sliced in half. The smallest ones can be left as they are. Personally, I like to envisage a size that can easily be scooped up with a spoon. Scatter the sugar over the strawberries and gently fold everything together, taking care not to damage the delicate fruit. Leave the bowl at room temperature for anywhere from 10–20 minutes. More delicate varieties like French Gariguettes or Mara des Bois will soften in a matter of minutes, whereas sturdier types will benefit from a longer maceration.

Taste the berries, and if they seem to call for more acidity, add the lemon juice or redcurrant juice. Adjust the sugar to your liking, then leave for a further 5 minutes before serving.

Fruitful by Sarah Johnson is published by Kyle Books.